Monday 29 August 2022

Why a pre nup?

Pre nuptial agreements have been around for a while, but most couples still marry without one. Are they a good idea or not? Certainly Jenny and I never considered a pre nup, we just expected each other to behave sensibly in any sort of crisis.

The usual objection to pre nups is that they immediately imply you don't trust each other and need elaborate safeguards to stop the other person behaving badly.

I guess most couples assume the marriage will work out just fine and there's no need to provide for all sorts of unlikely situations. Even if they know how many marriages collapse, they still don't think their own marriage might crumble.

I had a look at what pre nups usually cover:

  • Rights over property, inheritances and other assets
  • Protecting each spouse from the other's debts
  • Each spouse's entitlement to the other's support
  • How assets will be split if you divorce
  • Providing for children by a previous marriage
Jenny and I have never had a dispute over any of these things (we have no children to worry about). We agreed very early on that all our assets would be jointly owned and we wouldn't have separate bank accounts. This has worked well and neither of us is secretly salting away thousands of pounds or trying to claim sole ownership of the house.

People do add some unusual provisions to pre nups. An American couple agreed that if one of them cheated on the other, they would then have to pay all the household bills. Other pre nups have included the right to random drug tests on a spouse, the condition that a husband watches only one football game a week, and restrictions on the use of social media.

Pre nups might very well avoid some of the nastier marital bust-ups. But who wants to envisage bust-ups when you're still besotted with each other?

Thursday 25 August 2022

Beyond my ken

There are many things people do that leave me scratching my head in bewilderment. Why do people do these things? What's the great attraction? Oh well, different strokes for different folks, as they say.

And what are all the things that puzzle me? I listed some of them a few years back. Mostly they still apply.

  • The obsession with celebrities
  • Tattoos
  • Tongue-piercing
  • Stag and hen weekends
  • The prejudice against public services
  • Posting naked selfies on Facebook
  • Wearing a face veil
  • Having private quarrels in public
  • Personalised number plates
  • Going mental on a plane
  • Nouvelle cuisine
  • Barbecues
  • Thongs*
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Weddings on the other side of the world
  • Gangnam
  • Letting kids run wild
  • Teeth whitening
  • Designer labels
  • Lads' mags
The gangnam fashion didn't last very long, so I think I'll substitute bottled water. Why pay through the nose for something that's no better than tap water - and may actually be tap water?**

Luckily I've never been on a stag weekend (and never been invited to one). It's hard to imagine anything I'd enjoy less. And thankfully I grew up at a time when naked selfies were unheard of. When nakedness in general was something to be studiously avoided. I also grew up at a time when barbecues were a quaint custom in far-flung countries like Australia, where rain was virtually unheard-of. Somehow they caught on in the wet and gloomy UK.

*that's the underwear and not the Aussie footwear

**an estimated 25 per cent or more of bottled water is just tap water

Sunday 21 August 2022

Hugs and kisses

For as long as I can remember, I've been very physically demon-strative. I love hugging and kissing and holding hands, to me it's friendly and it's fun and it makes me feel closer to someone.

I think it's partly a reaction to my parents, who weren't very keen on physical affection. My father avoided it completely, while my mother stopped hugging and kissing me after she heard it might turn me into a homosexual (I know, it's hard to believe people actually thought that way).

So I'm happy to kiss and hug anyone who fancies a bit of kissing and hugging. Like me, some people enjoy it and can't get enough. Others recoil from it, seeing it as something affected and unnecessary, strictly the province of celebrities and chat-show hosts. I certainly wouldn't force a hug on someone who seemed unwilling.

I'm not ruling out men. I know affectionate physical gestures between heterosexual men are generally seen as a bit peculiar and even threatening, but I've never felt that. Why shouldn't men get the same pleasure from a kiss or a hug as women?

It may come as a shock to some (or it may not) that I've kissed hundreds of men. The explanation is simple. When I supported the Gay Liberation Front in the early 1970s it was the custom at meetings to greet your friends with a kiss. Not wanting to appear unfriendly or staid or homophobic, I followed suit and merrily kissed every man I met, even casual acquaintances. It was greatly enjoyable.

But for most men, shaking hands is all they can manage. My brother in law is strictly a hand-shaker, and clearly very suspicious of anything more affectionate. He doesn't know what he's missing.

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Alive and kicking

There's a British TV drama right now called "Marriage", which depicts marriage as being boring, frustrating and claustro-phobic. It may seem like a blissful union to start with, is the message, but as time goes by it'll become something very tedious and joyless.

Most of the critics agreed. Marriage sooner or later turns rotten, this is a brilliant portrayal of what it becomes, telling it like it is etc.

Well, Jenny and I couldn't recognise this depressing view of marriage. Is the typical long-term marriage really so dismal and vacuous? Are couples really so non-communicative, so ground-down, so forlorn?

Our marriage may go back 27 years but as far as we're concerned it's still very much a "blissful union" and we don't at all feel it's degenerated into something tedious and joyless. We get on very well, we enjoy doing things together, we have wonderful conversations about everything under the sun, we resolve our differences easily, and there's lots of laughter and excitement.

We don't feel there's anything lacking in our relationship. We don't think that maybe we'd be better off with someone else. We don't think we've taken some wrong turning and landed up somewhere we don't want to be. We're very happy just where we are.

If the average marriage really is as dismal as this TV drama makes out, I feel sorry for all those couples trapped in such an unsatisfying situation. Did they just marry the wrong person in the first place, have they simply lost interest in each other, or do they lack the skills needed to reinvigorate a tired relationship?

All I can say is, Jenny and I are very lucky our marriage hasn't become so "hollowed out" and is still alive and kicking.

Saturday 13 August 2022

Enough is enough

Why do some people think it's okay to force their beliefs or their principles onto others, along with abuse, threats and self-righteous moralising? Where does this creeping authoritarianism come from?

An Isle of Wight restaurant has stopped offering vegan dishes because of "nasty" and "bullying" vegans who constantly complained about what was on offer.

They used to cater for vegans. They had vegan cream teas, even BLT sandwiches with vegan bacon. But they got tired of the "holier than thou" attitude of vegan customers and the abuse directed at restaurant staff.

Now they have no vegan dishes at all. Owner Sally Cooper says it isn't a given that they should adapt their menus to suit the customers. "If you want vegan food, go to a vegan restaurant. If I went to a vegan restaurant and asked for a steak I wouldn't get one, nor would I expect to."

Jenny and I are both vegetarians, and we're sometimes disappointed by the small number of vegetarian options on a restaurant's menu, but we wouldn't dream of telling the restaurant to change its menu for our convenience. If we're not happy, we can always go somewhere else.

We accept that most people are meat-eaters, and very unlikely to change, so of course restaurant menus are going to be meat-based. We just have to work around that situation to cater for our own tastes.

It would be a shame if people concluded that vegans are rude intolerant individuals who just want to force their own dietary preferences onto other people. As anyone with vegan friends could tell you, that's not the case.

Pic: the restaurant in Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Something to loathe

When I'm constantly reading about other people's obsession with their bodies and what they look like, all the bits they dislike and want to change, I wonder why I give so little thought to my own body and why I'm not fretting in similar vein about all the bits I'm dissatisfied with.

As long as I look fairly normal and don't have four ears or twenty fingers, I take my body for granted and only give it serious attention when I'm buying clothes or shaving or showering. The rest of the time my body might be non-existent, just a sort of ghostly form hovering around me.

Why would I dislike my nose, or mouth, or hair, or tummy bulge, or protruding ears, or wobbly bits or wrinkles? They just are what they are. I've much more interesting things to think about than my skinny lips or my bald patch.

People often explain their bodily discontent by saying they lack self-confidence and changing this thing they dislike would give them a boost. But surely self-confidence stems from something far more basic than your physical appearance?

Or is it absolutely natural to dislike bits of your body, meaning I'm some kind of weirdo for not doing so? Should I be peering in the mirror every morning and finding something I loathe? Should I be desperately unhappy about my tummy bulge and planning some plastic surgery?

No, I refuse to abhor my body. It's not the ideal male body (whatever that might be) but it's good enough for me. Other people might think I could "improve" something or other but their opinions don't interest me.

I'm leaving my sticky-out ears just as they are, thanks. Sticky-out ears are super-cool.

Friday 5 August 2022

Clothing watch

Why the endless media obsession with the clothes worn by celebs? Who made them, how much they cost, whether they've been worn more than once, which celeb is wearing the most stunning dress etc.

Right now, it's the politicians who're being scrutinised. Like the two MPs vying to be the next Prime Minister. Apparently Rishi Sunak was wearing £450 shoes from Prada, while Liz Truss was wearing £4.50 earrings from Claire's Accessories.

Why on earth does it matter? Does Rishi Sunak's choice of shoes mean he'll make a better Prime Minister? Do they mean he's profligate and squanders money, while Liz Truss is more financially prudent and spends frugally? No, I don't think so either.

Male MPs usually manage to avoid clothing-censure by wearing the standard masculine uniform - shirt, tie and (dark-coloured) suit. If they ever dared to wear anything more casual, they'd get a swift rebuke. Woe betide the MP who turns up in purple hair, a pink suit and Crocs.

The obsession with celebrity clothing peaks at award ceremonies. All the female attendees are expected to wear some sensational outfit, and there's frenzied discussion of which celeb trounced all the others.

The celebs squeeze themselves into some tight-fitting ensemble they can hardly breathe in, just to make the maximum impression on the clothing-watchers. Apparently Kim Kardashian lost over a stone to get into a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe.

Celebs are regularly ticked off for wearing scruffy casual clothes on an everyday shopping trip, as if they're somehow "letting down their fans" or "letting themselves go". Are they seriously expected to go shopping in a Dior gown and stilettos?

Final thought: If President Zelensky can do his job in a t shirt and combat pants, why can't British MPs?

Monday 1 August 2022

There were benefits

Up to now I've always looked back on my boarding school years in a very negative way. I was bullied constantly, the quality of teaching was poor, emotions were suspect, I had to play rugby and cricket though I had no interest in sport, there was a big emphasis on religion though I was an atheist and so on.

But the school did have its benefits, some of which have greatly improved my life, and I need to acknowledge those benefits.

Alcohol was forbidden, smoking was forbidden, and drugs weren't available since the rest of the town was "out of bounds". There was no gambling. So there was no chance of becoming any kind of addict. Sex and dating were forbidden, so there was no risk of getting a girl pregnant or having under-age sex. Or for that matter becoming a sex addict. And being cut off from the town, there was little chance of committing crimes like shoplifting or vandalism.

On the other hand, we could listen to whatever music we fancied, so I heard every possible variety of rock music as every boy had his own favourite singer or band. And the only albums I had to pay for were for my own favourite singer of the time, Cliff Richard (Yes, believe it or not, Cliff Richard. Thankfully my musical tastes have changed for the better).

So I emerged from my adolescence as a clean-living, almost strait-laced young man, free of any addictions or psychological hang-ups, and able to get on with my life in a straightforward, uncomplicated way.

I've continued to be a clean-living individual, not in thrall to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sexual promiscuity or any other unhelpful habits. Which to some people may sound horribly boring, but it's a lifestyle that suits me just fine.

So at my ripe old age, my memories of boarding school have finally mellowed.